Political intimidation in Charlotte, NC – and other general thoughts on post-election race relations
This morning I noted that I had to a story to tell about two recent Obama supporter “road rage” incidents that have happened to me in the last two weeks. One happened last week, and the other this morning. Nearly 12 hours after this morning’s incident happened, I’m still feeling a hell of a lot of anger about it. I thought after a few hours I would have calmed down some from it but I haven’t, so excuse me if I use a bad word a time or two in this post. Also, apologies for any typos. I’ve had an exhausting week and right now my I’m thinking faster than I can type
In addition to a McCain-Palin sticker, I have an anti-Obama sticker on my bumper. It’s not ugly or nasty. It just reads “NOBAMA.” Charlotte is a liberal city, so you see more than your fair share of pro-Obama bumper stickers here, and I wanted to make it known to anyone who drives behind me or around me that I am most definitely not part of that camp. I’m sure there are people who get a little miffed when they see my stickers, as I do when I see theirs – but generally I look at the sticker, think “you’re making the wrong choice” and move on from it, not giving it another thought.
Last week, I was about a mile and a half away from my work and I was at a stoplight in the middle of a busy intersection. Two guys in an older model car pulled up behind mine. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the guy on the driver’s side raise his hands up in one of those “in your face” gestures and saw him mouth the name “Obama” two or three times with his hands in the air, almost like he was chanting. The light then turned green, and I proceeded to go forward, and the car behind me started tailing me. I mean, they were so close to my car that I could barely see any of the hood of their car. I was actually going just a little over the speed limit and slowed down a bit, trying to get them to back off but they got as close as they could get to my car without actually hitting it. Had I hit the breaks hard, they would have rammed the back of my car. This went on for about a mile or so before they made a sharp right turn onto a side street, tires squealing. I know both of those jerks were trying to intimidate me over my beliefs and it shook me up a bit – the audacity of it, mainly – but I shrugged it off as the day went on, thinking it was probably a one time thing.
This morning as I started out on my route to work, I was in one of two left turn lanes on one of the main streets here in Charlotte, and noticed a car pass by me in the other left lane that had an Obama-Biden bumper sticker. I looked away as I made my left turn, thinking “wrong choice, lady.” But I went on about my business and wasn’t going to think anything else of it, until the woman with the Obama sticker on her car started driving erratically and swerving back and forth from in front of me to the lane beside me. I had no idea why she was doing this at first, because there was no one in front of either of us and she could have easily gotten in her own lane and stayed there if she wanted to get ahead of me, but she didn’t. Whenever I would make an attempt to gain some speed she treated it as though I was trying to pass her (I wasn’t), and she’d speed up just a little. Then she’d dart in front of me again. The last time she darted in front of me she an I both ended up having to pull over into another lane as there was a police vehicle on the road that had stopped a car for whatever reason.
When she pulled back into the right lane to eventually make a right turn, I was in the left lane preparing to continue to go straight ahead. Do you know what this witch did to me? I looked over at her as many people will do to drivers who behave stupidly on the road, and as I was turning towards her, she rolled her window down, gave me a look that suggested she wanted to punch me in the mouth, and flipped me off. I know this was another attempt at political intimidation, because I had done nothing to provoke this. I never tried to race her, never tried to get in front of her, nothing. I minded my own business, but because I don’t support Barack Obama, I was targeted by a coward who probably would not have done that to me had we been standing in the same line to vote, because she wouldn’t be able to drive quickly away after making her cheap, nasty political attack.
My response to her was to flip her off in return, and utter a few choice words that I normally would never say. Luckily for her (and probably for me as well) my power window on my passenger side stopped working last week, so I couldn’t return the favor by rolling my window down so she could hear the choice words that came out of my mouth. She clearly wanted me to hear her but all I could see was the middle finger, and the look like she wanted to knock me out. She ended up turning right and I drove on straight on my route to work.
Needless to say, I was enraged. We all get irritated on the road when people drive like idiots – it’s all part of the daily routine. But in the end, we deal with it and tolerate it because we don’t have much of a choice. However, the incidents I described deal not just with idiotic drivers, but a**holes whose goal it was to try to scare and intimidate me for my political beliefs, and I will not stand for it. Not now, not ever. I am not an “in your face” kind of person by nature but if someone flips me off like that or makes a nasty remark, I will respond in kind to let them know that my spine isn’t made of jello, and that they will not be successful in trying to get me to stop expressing my political beliefs. That doesn’t mean I will start throwing punches, but I will stand my ground.
I’m not saying any of this to suggest that Barack Obama would condone this type of militant behavior, and it is not to suggest that one side is more guilty of engaging in these types of attacks (for example, my sister told me today about an incident she heard about that happened in Fayetteville, NC at a recent Obama rally where several people’s tires were slashed – WTH is wrong with people?!) but instead to bring up a larger point – an elephant in the room if you will – about something that hasn’t gotten a lot of discussion in the mainstream press, and that is the question of how will some black voters will react after the election, depending on who wins. It’s politically incorrect to say there might be rioting if Obama loses, but it’s apparently ok to talk about how if Obama wins, a small percentage of white people in this country will never accept it and will judge him solely on the basis of race, and that there might be racial attacks on others as a result, and attempts on his life as a result. I don’t doubt this is will be a likely scenario, but believe it will not be as widespread as some will make it out to be.
But let’s talk about something else that I see happening if Obama wins, possibly on more of a more frequent basis than nastiness on the part of fringe white racists. What I didn’t mention in what I wrote above were that in both instances of road rage the participants involved were black. Will these type of road rage incidents and other forms of intimidation by black supporters continue to happen after Obama is elected (assuming that he is)? I believe they will, and one of the primary reasons I believe it will happen is because not only have the media perpetuated the myth that white Republicans who oppose Obama are just showing their “inner racist” with their criticisms of him, but so have Obama and his campaign spokespeople and surrogates. We saw this during the primary when Bill and Hillary Clinton were painted as racists by Team Obama, how Obama used Malcolm X’s words ( “bamboozle!” “hoodwink!” ) at South Carolina rallies, and we’ve seen it here in the general election campaign season on multiple occasions. It’s usually not overt or blatant, but it’s there all the same. The media and the Obama campaign both have both helped foster an environment that feeds into the worst stereotypes about white Republicans, and that is that they all hate black people.
That said, I know there have been a few low-level figures in the GOP who have made some pretty despicable remarks about Obama on the basis of his race, but those remarks saturate the news media reports and are made to look like a pattern of behavior that is endemic in all white Republicans. It is not. Thankfully, serious-minded Republicans – including McCain – usually come down hard on anyone who would say anything like some of what’s been said. And needless to say, hoaxes like this one are disgusting and should be roundly condemened. On the other hand, you’ve got the Jacksons and the Sharptons and the Rangels and the Waters of this country who have made their it stock and trade to race-bait every chance they get, and who almost never get called on it. And if they are, then, well, you must be a racist. Double standards, anyone?
We’ve all read that we’re racists if we say Obama supports socialist policies, and if we talk about Obama’s ties to ACORN, we are racist because ACORN serves low-income communities, which contain a disproportionate number of black people. If you discuss Rev. Wright and Obama’s relationship critically, you’re a racist. If you believe this issue of Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers is worthy of scrutiny, you’re a racist for making the association with a white guy. If you run a critical ad against Obama which includes images of promiscuous white female celebrities, you’re a racist. If you run an ad linking Obama with Franklin Raines, and include an image of a poor white woman, you’re a racist. If you slam Michelle Obama’s “proud” remarks, you’re a racist. If you call Barack Obama “that one,” you’re a racist. Heck, I’m a racist for even writing this post. I could go on and on. How much more of this will we see if Obama is elected, thanks to the repeated perpetuation of the myth that white people who don’t support Obama do it solely on the basis that he is black?
I had high hopes when I first heard about Obama a few years ago that he could be the kind of black candidate that would finally help us move ahead on the issue of race instead of wallowing in the past. I thought to myself, if this guy goes far in politics, then maybe – just maybe – the Jackson and Sharpton types of race-baiters will one day be looking for a new line of work, and that their race-baiting days would be fewer and farther in between. But as I got to watch the Obama campaign in action when the primary battles really started heating up in January of this year, I started to lose hope that he would be that kind of candidate, because I learned that he was just as willing to use the race card and play on fears in the black community about white people … whether they be Democrat or Republican – in order to move up the political ladder. He did so especially in the South, where racial tensions still exist. He demagogued the issue of race for political expediency in a region of the country that is still trying to move forward from the divisions and ugliness of the past, something that can be done, if only race-baiting opportunistic politicians would stop using working class white people as a punching bag substitute for substantive responses to (mostly) legitimate criticisms.
I have put political bumper stickers of all kinds on my bumper practically since I was old enough to vote, and I have never experienced what I did these last couple of weeks. In fact, I’ve got liberal friends online and off who have told me in the past to “be careful” what neighborhoods I drive in with that bumper sticker, because they believe it could get me into trouble. I know I’m hardly the only one who has experienced things like this, and I’ve no doubt there’ve been some ugly similar incidents against Obama supporters. There is a raw passion and emotion in this election the likes of which I have never seen in my time following politics, a passion and emotion which I don’t think has been seen since the ‘nam years, and I think a not so insignificant part of it revolves around race.
There’s a legitimate excitement in the air from about half of America that Barack Obama is poised to win an office a black candidate couldn’t dream of winning even as little as 50 years ago. You talk to black people, you watch their reactions to Obama’s speeches and interviews, and you see in their eyes their excitement and hope, and you sympathize with it. Yet at the same time you think to yourself that you can’t bring yourself to support that candidate for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with race, and you want the person you’re talking to to understand that but you might be reluctant to say so out of worry that the person will look at you as though you’re a racist. Yes, you think to yourself, it’s good to break barriers, but you want it to be done by who you think is the right candidate to do so. You want it to be a candidate who won’t play to old fears and stereotypes about people, whether that candidate be black, or a woman, Hispanic, etc. You desire someone who doesn’t paint themselves as a victim, whether it be in an overt or subtle way.
There is a popular belief in this country that if Obama is elected that race relations will get better. Based on what I wrote above, I don’t believe that will happen. I don’t think they’re going to get any better. In fact, I worry that they just might get worse – and not just thanks to a certain segment of white Americans who still unfortunately live in the past and who have bought into the baseless rumors about how Obama is supposedly a “terrorist,” but also thanks to a certain segment of black Americans who not only live in the past, but have bought into the race-baiting that has been done by a candidate who was talked about early on as being someone who might be able to “bridge the racial divide” but who in reality has proven that he cleverly knows how to widen it when it suits his political purposes.
I could be wrong about the future of race relations as a result of a Barack Obama presidency. In fact, this is one of those rare issues where I hope it ends up that I am wrong. I fear, however, that I will not be.